Cars sped up as region's roads emptied during lockdown

Motorists increased their speeds on main routes in the Black Country and Staffordshire last year as coronavirus restrictions sparked a drop in traffic levels, figures reveal.

The RAC says some drivers across the country took advantage of the emptier roads to drive at "dangerous speeds" – including in residential areas.

Department for Transport (DfT) data shows cars and light vans travelled at an average speed of 30.9mph on 'A' roads in Staffordshire last year. It was up from 28.8mph in 2019 – a rise of seven per cent.

It increased by 14 per cent in Sandwell – from 19.6mph in 2019 to 22.3mph last year. And in Dudley it went from 19.6mph in 2019 to 21.9mph last year – a rise of 12 per cent.

The data shows the vehicles travelled at an average speed of 19.2mph on 'A' roads in Wolverhampton last year – up 11 per cent from 17.3mph in 2019. And in Walsall the average speed recorded on 'A' roads was 22.6 mph – a rise of eight per cent from 21mph.

Mel Langdown, strategic governance and commissioning manager for the Staffordshire Safer Roads Partnership, said: “It’s disappointing that some motorists may have taken advantage of quieter roads and increased their speed.

"We would always encourage drivers and riders to adhere to the speed limit regardless of traffic levels, and ensure they are safe and responsible road users.”

Across England, the average speed of cars and light vans on 'A' roads rose by eight per cent last year to 27.3mph. This was caused by a steady increase in speeds following the imposing of Covid-19 stay-at-home restrictions in March last year, the DfT said.

Simon Williams, RAC road safety spokesman, said the impact of the pandemic on the country's roads was "something of a double-edged sword".

He added: "On the one hand, fewer delays is positive and may well have led to an improvement in overall air quality, but on the flipside, we know that some drivers have taken advantage of quieter roads by driving at dangerous speeds.

"This has been a particular problem on 30 mph roads in residential areas."

Mr Williams said it is important police forces continue to crackdown on excessive speeders and that there are consequences for their "totally unacceptable" actions.

The figures cover only 'A' roads, which account for around 10 per cent of England's highway network but carry around a third of all traffic. Speeds were measured using samples of vehicles recorded at different times of the day.

The DfT said the average speed of motorists across the main road network, including motorways, stood at 61.8 mph last year – below the speed limits for the majority of roads where vehicles were recorded.

The department also said average speeds and delays are returning to pre-pandemic levels as Covid-19 restrictions continue to be eased.

But this has not been welcomed by environmental group Friends of the Earth (FotE), which now wants increased funding for public transport and cycle ways to keep people away from their cars.

Jenny Bates, a FotE campaigner, said: "There's a serious risk that the benefits to our health and environment that came with quieter roads are going to become a distant memory."

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News